Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
The Future is Accessible Print E-mail
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by Michael Dougherty


My father once told me in a rain-worn Irish pub: "If there's a roadblock, climb over it." I once crawled through a construction pit that broke up a Los Angeles sidewalk because I was going to be late for a movie. I lost my shoe, too. So, my dad was preaching to the choir. I am reminded of it, though, as the Sochi Winter Games are underway and there are more than a few hundred athletes who face similar roadblocks. The tenacious ones understand already some variation of my father's advice, but Russia poses interesting challenges because it has had to revamp its infrastructure to accommodate these athletes for the very first time on home soil.


The callous might believe that not enough has been done. The language difference can be troublesome. The elevators don't work properly. Ramps are hard to find. Certainly, the desire to see Russia fail, an odd facet of human nature within popular culture, colors the expectations that followed them into the opening ceremonies last week.


Still, as I rolled thunder through the Sochi airport, it struck me how much care individuals took in getting me to where I needed to be and at what time. They have worked to get the appropriate transportation, complete with lifts, door-to-door and show me, sometimes several volunteers at a time, where to go in the Olympic Village. All of this has been enacted with eagerness to please and be helpful.

The experience of accessibility has been a surprisingly positive one. Given that my major attitude toward this subject runs toward the pugilistic, due in large part to my adopted city in California's own failing infrastructure and it's refusal to cotton to basic civil rights when it comes to public transportation. That's for another time.

In particular, ramps here in Sochi are omnipresent. They've made traversing the sidewalks in town easy, to the degree that my anger has dissipated and I am able to simply enjoy myself. There are more than enough vans with lifts and the service is quick and streamlined. The elevators work and the volunteers keep the wheels spinning around the clock. You can say a lot about Russia, but they figured out and executed this huge, ground-breaking endeavor with a great deal of precision and energy.

I don't think this is a mistake and it has to do with all these  volunteers offering their time and space to us. That the volunteers are young people, mostly college age, means a great deal, even if it's hard to articulate now. The Russian government has made some abhorrent political decisions that show them as bullying rather than powerful. The pernicious cloud of disability maltreatment hangs over the Sochi Paralympics and the Russian people. The next generation of Russian citizens, though, hold the power to keep changing their country and its attitudes. Enough of them together could shift the cultural tide toward a more inclusive and humanistic one, devoid of ancient prejudices, possessed of a new compassion. A government is only as good as its people will allow it and the old regime, even the current one, stands on shaky ground because myopia and fear-mongering hold back progress. Yet, these everyday youth clearly have it in them to seize back the political soul of their nation by not collaborating with oppression and keeping their hands reaching out to those in need. As Tony Kushner wrote in "Angels in America": "And only in politics does the miraculous occur." There is a miracle here waiting for the future, a new Perestroika for the disenfranchised.

So, I think it's appropriate to tip our hats to our host nation. It almost feels like we're fitting in, and that's saying something. So, if you see one of the volunteers in those must-have super fabulous jackets exploding with all those gay (see: un-ironically happy) colors, give him or her a thumbs up when they point the way. It can only do good and reinforce that there's nothing to be worried about on either end, at least until one of us falls down an open manhole and dies. Then worry. A lot.

About the Author: Michael Dougherty is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visi twww.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 21:15
 
Sochi Paralympics for Day 5 Print E-mail
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Team USA Earns Two Medals And Shot At Curling Play-offs

Written By Brian Rank
Photo by Ken King

 

SOCHI, Russia –  There was fresh snow on the slopes and fresh hopes for the wheelchair curling team during a Wednesdaythat marked strong performances and two medals for the US – one bronze and one silver.


Team USA now has  four silver  medals and four bronze.


Below are recaps from the day’s events.    


Alpine Skiing

Laurie Stephens racked up her third medal with a third-place win in the sitting slalom, keeping on the  in the third through both runs of the event, finishing about four seconds behind gold winner Anna Forster of Germany.


Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead finished fourth in the visually impaired slalom. Staci Mannella and guide Kim Seevers finished sixth; it was their Paralympics debut.


“I am very relieved to get my first run done," Mannella said. "I can really only move forward from here, and that's what we are going to do in the giant slalom. The first run I was super nervous, the second run I ran closer to what I’m capable of, I think for the giant slalom I will chill out and really have a race like I am capable of having.”


Melanie Schwartz finished 10th in the in the women’s standing class while Allison Jones and Stephanie Jallen fell on the first run and were unable to complete the course.


Cross-Country

Tatyana McFadden landed the silver medal in the 1 kilometer sitting sprint, her first of the games and the second fro the cross country team. A time of 2:45.7 put her just 0.1 behind first place finisher Mariann Marthinsen from Norway. McFadden now has earned medals in both the winter and the summer games where she competes in wheelchair racing.


“I can’t even believe it. My main goal was just to come in and make it to the final,” McFadden said. “I am just so happy and so proud.”


Teammate Oksana Masters  came in fourth. Both McFadden and Masters are both competing in the cross-country event for the first time.

 

The men’s team gave a strong performance today with Andy Soule and Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen making it to the 1 km sitting cross-country final. Soule finished fifth and Cnossen came in sixth at 2:38.0 and 2:39.9 respectively.


Wheelchair Curling
Two wins continue Team USA’s medal hopes after moving close to missing the play-offs on Saturday. A 10-2 win over China and and 8-3 over Sweden put the US in a tie for fourth place.


The round-robin continues on Thursday for the US with a match against third-ranked Great Britain which will decide if the team has a spot in the play-offs. If team USA loses on Thursday, they have a possibility of playing in a tie-breaker on Fridaydepending on the outcome of the other games during the day.


About the Author: Brian Rank is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.
 
Sochi Paralympics for Day 4 Print E-mail
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USA Gets Good Results In Bad Weather

Written by Brian Rank

SOCHI, Russia – In a day fraught with harsh weather on the slopes and penalties on the sled hockey ice, team USA still managed to keep its future at the games alive. Wheelchair curling came back with a win to keep their medal hopes alive, Alpine and nordic skiing athletes stayed in the top ten and sled hockey put up a tough fight, despite a losing the game, and still will vie for a medal in the playoffs.

Below are recaps from the day’s events.

Alpine Skiing

The gloomy weather that postponed the SuperG portion of the super combined event could not keep US alpine team members from placing in the top ten. Stephanie Jallen and Danelle Umstead earned third place in the standing slalom event and Allison Jones posted the fifth place time. Laurie Stephens came in fourth in the women’s sitting slalom The SuperG runs will take place on Friday for those who completed the slalom half of the event.

This is another link in a chain of strong runs from the alpine team which earned 6 of the 7 US medals. Jallen entered the run fresh from winning bronze in the SuperG on Monday.  “Yesterday really helped my confidence if anything, because I was completely unsure how this week was going to turn out for me, being my first Games and all,” she said. I’m trying not to put everything that happened yesterday in my head. I just want to make it a clean slate and try to do it again. I’m sitting in a good position right now, and I’m just glad I get the opportunity to race again and complete the combined race.”

Biathlon

US biathletes battled fog and freezing temperatures as they aimed for top positions. Sitskier  Andy Soule placed fifth in the 12.5 kilometer race, the best of the day from team USA. Soule has placed in the top of of all his nordic events this week. “Overall, I think I have had three of the best days of racing ever in these Games,” Soule said. Dan Conossen and Sean Halsted finished 11th and 12th respectively.

Oksana Masters finished eighth in the women’s 12 km, another high finish after winning the silver in the women’s 12 km crosscountry  race.

 

Sled Hockey

In possibly the biggest upset of the Games so far, Russia beat the defending Paralympic champions, team USA, 2-1 in their final preliminary game. The loss, that seemed to come downto penalty calls, still leaves team USA with a winning 2-1 record and a guaranteed medal as the playoffs begin Thursday. "I can't criticize my team at all," head coach Jeff Sauer said. "I thought we played as well as we can play. We put a lot of pressure on. I thought we dominated play for the majority of the game and just a couple of bad breaks went against us and that was the difference in the game."

Wheelchair Curling

USA curling kept themselves in medal territory with a 76 win over Finland. The team, now 24 needed to win or else lose a spot in the semifinals on Saturday. The win means they are in a threeway tie for seventh place "It's a big boost for us. We knew we had to win and have to win the rest of them," David Palmer said. " ... We all knew we had the ability to do it. We just had to go out there and prove it. I think we all pretty much executed good today – much better than in our previous games." The nine game round robin ends on Thursday, but if there is a tie, the tiebreaker games will take place on Friday.

About the Author: Brian Rank is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Seven Americans Compete in Biathlon Events, Soule Finished Fifth

Written by Eric Gissendanner

SOCHI, Russia – Seven Americans took part in across three biathlon competitions at the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center on Tuesday. The men’s 12.5K sitting event saw five competitors, with one skier in the men’s 12.5K standing and one racer in the women’s 10K sitting.

The event consisted of five 2.5K loops, with four shooting sessions. At the shooting station, athletes fire five shots per round. Competitors in the standing and sitting categories use standard air rifles, while those in the visually impaired events use an electronic blind shooting system that allows the athlete to aim at the target according to a sound heard through a headset. During each shooting round, athletes have five shots to hit five targets placed 10 meters (33 feet) away.  In the men’s 12.5K sitting event, Andrew Soule placed fifth among four other United States competitors, clocking in at 37:04. Daniel Cnossen (National Sports Center for the Disabled) came in 11th at 39:01, while Sean Halstead (Rathdrum Ski Club) finished one spot behind in 39:32. Jeremy Wagner (National Center for the Disabled) skied to 16th place in 40:51, while AugustoJose Perez (Central CrossCountry Ski Team) rounded out the competition with a 19th place posting in 48:40. Soule was perfect in his shots, the only American to do so. He gained ground throughout the race, recording a sixth best time after 7.5K before passing Maksym Yarovyi from the Ukraine. Soule was also the highest placing nonRussian athlete. The host nation saw four of competitors take the top four spots.

For the men’s 12.5K standing, Omar Bermejo (Maine Winter Sports Center/Paralympic Sport Club) was the lone American to compete as he finished 17th in 37:22. Bermejo was third off the starting line and finished sandwiched between Poland’s Witold Skupien and Finland’s Juha Harkonen.  In the women’s 10K sitting portion, Oksana Masters (National Sports Center for the Disabled) posted an eighth place finish in 40:22. Masters was the only American woman to compete in all of Tuesday’s events. The 10K event consisted of five 2K loops with four shooting sessions.

All biathlon events enjoy Wednesday and Thursday off before rounding out six final competitions on Friday.

Hometown David Overcomes Trading Goliath

Written by Mike Doyle

SOCHI, Russia – Team USA had been marching right along with decisive wins against Italy (USA 5 ITA 1) and Korea (USA 3 KOR 0) while the host country Russia had started out slower with a tough overtime loss to South Korea and gained some momentum with a solid win against the Italian boys. Attendance for this grudge match between countries was the largest so far with 5,765 ticketed onlookers. US vs. Russia rivalries in the able bodied sport go back to USA Olympic “underdog” victories in 1960 (Squaw Valley CA) and 1980 (Lake Placid NY or “MiricleOnIce”); the latter pitted United Soviet Socialist Republic Red Army players against American college hockey players. Sled rivalries are less historical as the United States has had a national team since the early 1990s and the Russian program had only been seriously established since the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games were awarded to Russia. 2014 Team USA Sled Hockey players have the edge in speed, endurance and puck handling while the Russian squad has 4,000 of the 5,765 attendees squarely in their corner.

There was a nervous tension in the air, but little feeling out process as the US squad dominated play during the first half of the first period; literally skating circles around their Russian counterparts. The Americans had difficulty setting up the power play after #11 Alexey Amosov clutched on to one of the Americans in front of his net at the 6:45 mark. Shot total at that point was USA 9 and Russia 1. Two thirds through the first period Team USA got themselves into penalty trouble when gentleman and team captain #9 Andy Yohe (Bettendorf IA) was somehow accused of “teeing”. To make matters worse 44seconds later #28 Paul Schaus was called for charging when he put a big shoulder into a white sweater defenseman in the attacking corner. The Americans playing two men down, all but killed of the first infraction.  With just 4seconds left in the first minor, the Russian captain Dmitrii Lisov fed a pass to Ivan Kuznetsov at the halfboards. Ivan in turn feathered a pass across the high slot for a picture perfect one-timer which threaded its way into the top left corner; one of the few shots that stellar netminder #34 Steve Cash (Overland MO) couldn’t stop. Shot totals for period one were USA 11 to RUS 4.

The beginning of the second period brought more troubles for the hard working American squad. The Russians scored a second tally after a tough bounce off a USA back checker’s stick or bucket and into his gaping net. Both team incurred a single minor penalty without consequence during the second stanza. The boisterous crowd and the two goal deficit never held down the Americans as they continued to power through the Russian defense without results.  The well decorated American head coach Jeff Sauer never showed any sign of concern as hisplayers were businesslike and hardworking despite the scoring shortfall. You could see concern however on some of the players faces during closeups before puck drops.

After the Russians burned off a minor for hooking, Adam Page #20 (Lancaster NY) halved the US deficit; scoring a nice goal off a rebound with some help from #15 Nikko Landeros (Johnstown CO) and #9 Andy Yohe. Two additional successful scoring chances were “called back” for hand pass and crease violation respectively.  Team USA ends up second in their division behind Russia and will be playing Canada on Thursday. Winner of the USA vs. CAN semifinal match on Thursday will move on to play the winner of the Norway vs. Russia semifinal in the Gold Medal match on Saturday; losers of both semifinal contests vie for third place in the Bronze Medal contest also on Saturday.

US Curling Eyes Medal Contention versus Finland

Written by Matt Gephart

SOCHI, Russia – The US has found itself between a rock and a hard place, or should I say, a stone and a hard place, after defeating Finland by one point Tuesday during the Round Robin Session eight. Coming into the days session, the US Team had found themselves sitting near the bottom of the standings, and needing to win out to keep in the contention for a medal. After losing the hammer for one of the few times here in the Paralympics at Sochi, the US team needed to play it smart and aggressively if they wanted a chance to get to the finals.

Finland started out the session with the hammer but was unable to capitalize as the US Team took a 10 lead without the hammer. Going into the second end, Finland looked to be gathering themselves andplaying stronger than they were with the hammer, scoring one point and tying the session at one. Then the US began to turn on the heat, scoring consecutive ends, including a three point fourth end after the Finland skip left his final shot shy of the house allowing the US to score, putting the board at 5-1 in favor of the Americans.

With a considerable lead, things were looking good for the US Team going into the fifth end although nerves got the best of them, allowing Finland to score four points and tie the session on multiple miscues. All knotted up going into the sixth end, the US Team found themselves with the hammer yet again and within a tight spot all tied at five. This end went down to the wire where USA Skip Patrick McDonald needed a takeout on the final throw to score a point, which he made successfully taking the lead and putting the score at 6-5.

The nail biting went all the way to the final end after the US was able to steal one more point from the Fin's to make the score 7-5 going into the eighth and final end, where the Finland team was only able to score one stone and leave the session in favor of the US Team 76.  This allowed the US to stay in medal contention, going up against Team China in the morning session, and Team Sweden in the evening session on Wednesday.

About the Author: Matt Gephart is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The all volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports. Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. 

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 18:38
 
Watch the ICE WARRIORS Documentary Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   

 

ICE WARRIORS, a new action-packed, one-hour primetime PBS documentary, goes behind the scenes to profile the accomplishments of the elite competitors who make up the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Sled Hockey Team.  Click here to see it: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/medal-quest/ (Also pbs.org/medalquest AND pbs.org/icewarriors) or Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzkQfVIJun2L6lxuCfULVVw31bKs6ENV-

About MEDAL QUEST: ICE WARRIORS Website

For opportunities to learn more about the sled hockey team, to follow and connect with some of the world’s most elite athletes and hear their stories in their own words, and for an up-close, in-depth look at the Winter Paralympic Games, visit ICE WARRIORS at pbs.org/icewarriors.  The website will be continually updated with news coverage of the sled hockey competition and results for all of the Paralympic athletes during the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games being held in Sochi, Russia from March 7-16, 2014.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 22:32
 
Alpine Stays As Medal Leader For USA in Sochi Print E-mail
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Written By Brian Rank
Photos by Michael Clubine

 

SOCHI, Russia – It was a day for alpine skiing which reasserted itself as the wellspring of US medals in the Paralympics, adding two bronze in the super-G. Alpine skiing now has six of the seven US medals this far in the games. In cross-country skiing, Jake Adicoff finished sixth in the 20 kilometer race, while the wheelchair curling team lost twice in matches against Canada and Russia.


The Russian Federation continued its medal lead with 24 total including seven gold. The US has earned seven total, three silver and four bronze.


Below are recaps from the day’s events.    



Alpine Skiing

Stephanie Jallen sped her way to the podium on Monday winning the bronze in the standing super-G with a time of 1:30.14. Teammate Allison Jones finished fourth and Melanie Schwartz took 10th. This was Jallen’s first Winter Paralympics appearance.


"It’s something I only dreamed about. I have never been a bigger believer that dreams come true than right now. I've imagined it for the last nine years of my life, and in my very first run in the Paralympic Games I score a bronze. I can't wait to bring it home,” she said.


Teammate Laurie Stephens earned bronze in the sitting super-G, adding her second medal of the games after her bronze in sitting downhill on Saturday.


“It hasn't really sunk in yet," she said. "I'm pretty excited. I feel like I could have skied better for sure but I am still happy. I'm taking things one day at a time and focusing on one turn at a time."


In the visually impaired super-G, Danelle Umstead and guide Rob Umstead placed fourth.


Alana Nichols  and Stephani Victor both crashed on the mountain and were transported out by helicopter. Nichols was discharged and later tweeted “I am just fine” and that Victor “is also going to be okay.”


Cross-country Skiing

Jake Adicoff and his guide, Reid Pletcher, skied into a heated competition and rising temperatures (highs were in the mid-50s today), managing to place sixth in the 20 km cross-country race with  58:37.4 on the clock. Adicoff raced in the visually impaired category in the longest nordic event of the games.


Kevin Burton placed 10th in the race.


In the men’s 20 km cross-country classic John Oman placed 18th in his first event in the Winter Paralympics.


“Just getting the race under my belt was the biggest thing. It was my first Paralympic race and there is a lot to learn from this race, but I am smiling,” he said.



Wheelchair Curling

Team USA lost twice in the third day of the nine-game round robin. The US lost 7-2 to number-one ranked Canada and then 6-5 to second-ranked Russia. Team USA can not lose another game if it wants a spot in the playoffs on Saturday. The team was 1-4 at the end of the day Monday.


"I think there are going to be a whole lot of teams in that tiebreaker position, and I plan on being in it," Patrick McDonald said. "I'm still not worried. Until someone comes up to me and says 'We didn't make it,' we'll concentrate and keep moving forward."


About the Author: Brian Rank is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.


PHOTO CAPTION:
Photos by Michael Clubine
John Oman has traded in the cold of his hometown of Hudson, Wis for the slightly warmer Russia as he competes in the Cross-Country 20km at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 March 2014 14:19
 
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